Rare Bird – Beautiful Scarlet - The Recordings (6 x CD Esoteric)

Rare Bird were a progressive rock band that formed in 1969. The band began as an idea from two keyboard players Graham Field and Dave Kaffinetti. Despite being an English band and also the one of the first bands signed the legendary Charisma label they had more success in other European countries than in their own. They released five studio albums between 1969 and 1974. The line up changed over the course of the studio albums but Kaffinetti and Stevee Gould (lead vocals & bass, rhythm guitar) were constants throughout the band’s lifetime.
Esoteric have a habit of finding forgotten about bands and bringing them back into view and with Beautiful Scarlet they have put together a 6 Cd box set comprising of all the Rare Bird albums and an additional live CD recorded in London in June 1974.


The first album, from 1969, is really the sound of a band discovering who they are and where they want to take things. It’s keyboard driven prog with a sound that can best be described as King Crimson meet Uriah Heep. While it has a solid enough bunch of tracks and includes their European hit single Sympathy (number one in France and Italy, and covered by Toyah and Marillion) it’s not mind blowing but has enough of interest on it to make you keen to see where they take things and how they progress.


The second album “as Your Mind Flies By” is the one that that gave the band their reputation amongst prog fans. In particular the second side with the 20 minutes long “Flight”. A complex piece broken in four sections with a definite nod towards Focus and taking in everything from Prog to classical to avant garde soundscapes. It’s easy to see why this piece sealed their reputation.
In a probably career damaging move half of the band (organist Graham Field and drummer Mark Ashton) left and the band recorded their third album “Epic Forest,” with new members. Ced Curtis joining on lead guitar pushed the band towards far more guitar dominated work and gives it a more West Coast feel.


The last two albums are a bit of mixed affair and despite having such luminaries as Nic Potter and John Wetton playing with them they seem to me to have lost direction and weren’t really sure who or what they wanted to be. This is probably best seen on the final album “Born Again” where they started to flirt with Funk and it doesn’t really work for them. While they redeem themselves a little on the second side of this it really seemed that the band’s time was up.


The live disc sadly only has tracks from the last two albums but they sounded like they were a pretty solid act live and it’s a shame there couldn’t be a second live disc of the earlier line up.
None of the members went on to be in any other notable acts the only claim to fame being Dave Kaffinetti playing the part of Viv Savage in the Spinal Tap movie.
Each album has a few bonus tracks and the whole box is a very comprehensive over view of the band. DB

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